A few months ago, I was reading a blog post from someone on the “cutting edge” of the organic church movement – if it’s a movement. The person asked what his readers would like him to write about, and I said, “Right about real life example of what it means to be part of an ‘organic church’ and how it affects things like gathering together, discipleship, giving, evangelism, teaching, etc.” (paraphrase)
Earlier this week, Dan at “Cerulean Sanctum” asked “Is Organic House Church a Myth?” Why would Dan ask that question? Because he sees so few real life examples in his city. He has been reading through some of Frank Viola’s book, and he loves the descriptions that he finds there. But, why can’t he find them in real life?
I say this because the more I attempt to locate the type of organic/house church that Viola says has been blessing his life for the last few decades, the more it seems like the fabled destination of another famous musical, Brigadoon…
I live just outside a metropolitan area of 2.2 million people that is heavily churched. When Christian pollsters and church resource magazines publish info about influential institutional churches, this area contains a disproportionately large number of them. Which is why I continue to scratch my head at the utter lack in such an area of anything resembling Viola’s ethereal organic church. Hasn’t anyone burned out of those institutional megachurches and fled to the supposed refuge of an organic church?
Reading the testimonials of organic church members included in Viola’s books makes my heart ache. But like so many tales one hears in the American Church today, it seems like those beautiful stories are happening in some hazy, distant place, almost like Narnia, except even harder to find.
I understand much of Dan’s frustration, and many of my readers have shared the same frustrations and difficulties in finding the kind of shared life in Christ that “organic church” books describe.
Now, I know that the type of shared life that Viola (and others) describe exist, because I experience it every day. I also know that this kind of church life can be found among the members of more traditional or institutional churches. However, that doesn’t help others who are seeking fellowship with others in this way. It still seems elusive.
As you can probably tell from my previous paragraph, I’m not interested in some new model of church that is labeled “organic church” as opposed to some other brand or model of church. Instead, I’m interested in brothers and sisters in Christ sharing their lives together in Jesus Christ in such a way that he is able to work through them as he desires – often unorchestrated, unplanned, unrehearsed, and unscripted.
Unfortunately, this kind of life cannot happen (only) in a church gathering… even an “organic church” gathering with open participation. This kind of life happens day in and day out when people spend time together, care about one another, give and help one another, and serve others together.
To be honest, I’ve found this kind of “church” more difficult to locate than “organic church.” There are several websites that list local “organic churches” or “house churches” in your area. However, tacking the label “organic church” or “house church” onto a group – or even meeting in a house or having an open participatory meeting – does not indicate that the people involved actually share their lives with one another.
However, these groups do exist. I’ve communicated with many people who live like this day in and day out with other Christians. I’ve even had a few opportunities to get together with representatives of different groups who gather around our area.
But… I still agree with Dan. This type of church life is difficult to find, and extremely elusive – even where it does exist.
Why do you think it is so difficult to find “organic church life”?
(By the way, I will offer some of my own answers to that question in tomorrow morning’s blog post.)